The Victorian government has announced the introduction of legislation aimed at permanently banning the development of unconventional gas explorations throughout the state, including coal seam gas and fracking, in an unprecedented victory for campaigners across Australia.
The legislation, the first of its kind in the country, will be introduced into state parliament later this year, and will be aimed at protecting Victoria’s agriculture sector and alleviating farmers’ concerns about environmental and health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.
The announcement follows a parliamentary inquiry into onshore unconventional gas developments in Victoria, which received over 1,600 submissions last year and was unable to reach a consensus on whether to impose a five-year or permanent ban on the sector.
The report recommended further studies should be undertaken to determine the long-term impacts to human health before reaching a decision, however, this process was temporarily delayed by the appointment of new Resources Minister, Wade Noonan.
Despite this, after months of continued parliamentary discussions and campaigns by anti-coal seam gas advocates, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews announced the final decision to the media early this morning:
We’ve listened to the community and we’re making a decision that puts farmers and our clean, green brand first.
Victorians have made it clear that they don’t support fracking and that the health and environmental risks involved outweigh any potential benefits.
Our farmers produce some of the world’s cleanest and freshest food. We won’t put that at risk with fracking.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION:
Over the past five years, the Lock the Gate coalition of rural communities, numerous environmental groups, and networks of concerned farmers have all fought unconventional gas exploration across Australia.
Chloe Aldenhoven, co-ordinator for Lock the Gate, said about 1.4m hectares of Victoria are threatened by some form of onshore gas mining, which included coal seam gas, tight gas, shale gas and underground coal gasification.
The procedure for extracting natural gas (methane) from the Earth is called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’. This involved drilling deep into the Earth, usually below ground water basins, and pumping a huge cocktail of chemicals mixed with sand to break apart sediment formations underground, releasing the gas for capture above.
Campaigners have been relentless in the efforts to ban the process across Australia:
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States released a near five-year long draft assessment entitled Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment, which admitted that ground water and surface water resources have already been contaminated by fracking, confirming research undertaken in Australia and reinforcing the concerns of many citizens about the process.
Read more about the concerns here: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/our_concerns
Today marks a breakthrough in the long fight against coal seam gas and unconventional gas explorations.
A dairy farmer in the Victorian coastal town of Seaspray, Julie Boulton, said the threat of unconventional gas mining had been hanging over farmers’ heads for years, but the news marks a small victory for many in her position:
It has been so heart-wrenching at times, when we thought the drill rigs were coming and there was nothing we could do.
But we pulled together as a community and decided to fight this threat to our farmland, water and health and today’s decision is just fantastic – we are ecstatic.
The legislation will extend the current moratorium on conventional onshore gas until 2020, and offshore gas exploration and development will continue.
This is good news for every Victorian, but for the farming communities that have been fighting to stop this industry for over five years now, this is a wonderful day.
This decision gives them certainty to move forward, and this decision protects Victoria’s vital clean and green image.
TOTT News will keep you updated on the legislation when it is introduced and any new developments.
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